Talking Points Against School Districts of Innovation in Texas

Jan 2, 2017 by

“Talking Points Against School Districts of Innovation in Texas”

By Donna Garner



[Please feel free to share this e-mail with other concerned citizens.]




Texas House Bill 1842 which set up Districts of Innovation (DOI) was passed in the last Legislative Session. The law is meant to give traditional independent school districts some of the same flexibility that charter schools have.


I have researched, written, and published against Districts of Innovation (DOI) for some time. Please read below to see why DOI’s are a bad thing.  Citizens all over this state are trying to fight school administrators; but the fact is that the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) and Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) want DOI.   


Unfortunately, TASA/TASB seem to “drive the ship.”  Local school administrators and school boards are pressured, coerced, and manipulated into doing whatever TASA and TASB want them to do. 


The DOI meetings occurring in the McLennan County area are taking place all over Texas.  Excerpts from the 12.31.16 Waco Tribune-Herald are posted further on down the page.


These DOI meetings with the public are simply a step these administrators must take in the chain of requirements to shove DOI into their districts. >From what I am seeing all over the state, those parents and concerned citizens against DOI’s are voicing their pleas and are being completely ignored.




Superintendents and school board members join TASA/TASB and pay their membership dues and convention expenses out of local taxpayers’ taxes.  Then TASA and TASB take those funds and pay their lobbyists to go to Austin and lobby the legislature to raise school taxes.  In other words, we taxpayers are paying to lobby ourselves!  Many classroom teachers also belong to teacher organizations (mostly for the litigation coverage), but teachers have to pay their own dues and convention expenses if they so choose to join.  Why should supes/board members get a free ride on the taxpayers’ dime?  If supes/board members want to join professional organizations, they should have to pay their own dues/convention costs just as classroom teachers do.  I believe that if supes/board members had to pay those expenses out of their own pockets, TASA/TASB would soon lose memberships and power.


TASA/TASB (who are behind DOI) are the main proponents of the Common Core-compliant philosophy of education (Type #2).  They fear real accountability worse than death!  They fight authentic Type #1 (traditional) curriculum standards (TEKS) and the Type #1 STAAR/End-of-Course tests because of the objectivity of the data. 


Students study the Type #1 fact-based/academic/traditional curriculum and then take the tests (STAAR/EOC’s) based upon what they have learned (questions usually with right or wrong answers).


The data coming from this Type #1 philosophy of education is hard data.  However, many school administrators/school boards are scared for their local parents to know hard data.  The subjectivity, project-based learning, group-think, collaboration approach of Type #2 provides soft data that can be easily manipulated to make students and school districts look far better.


11.4.13 — Type #1 vs. Type #2 Chart —




DOI appears to school administrators/school boards to be an “escape route” from authentic accountability. They then manipulate parents into thinking that DOI will get rid of the STAAR/EOC’s which are definitely stressful for all concerned. However, if students are taught the curriculum standards (TEKS) that the elected members of the State Board of Education adopt and which are mandated by the state of Texas for school districts to teach, students will be ready for the STAAR/EOC’s which then become a good “measuring stick” for everyone concerned.


Parents need to know whether their students have mastered the curriculum at each grade level rather than to find out years down the way that their child is failing because he did not gain proficiency at a lower grade level.  The sooner a parent finds out the truth, the sooner the child can be remediated and tutored. Denying reality now will only prolong problems for the child later on.




However, TASA and TASB have jumped on the “hate STAAR/EOC” bandwagon and are gaming the system to convince parents to go with DOI.


I always explain it this way:  Not everyone who supports Type #2 and its agenda are “evil” people.  I believe there are three types of people – the green people, the yellow people, and the red people.  


The “green” people are those who go-along to get-along; they go with the status quo and are content to follow whatever teaching fad is in vogue at the present time. These people are not bad people but are easily deceived by those who have ulterior motives (e.g., drive-by media, national educator organizations, left-leaning politicians, CSCOPE, Common Core Standards).


The “yellow” people are those who are driven by greed, money, power, and fame. Many of these people are vendors, lobbyists, or school employees who look past the egregious content of their products so long as they themselves are benefitting.  Into this group fall some CSCOPE/TESCCC/ESC employees, Thomas Ratliff, Mike Moses, Pat Jacoby, TASA, TASB, etc.


The “red” people know exactly what they are doing. They have long-term goals to change America, and they realize that the best way to do this is to indoctrinate this and succeeding generations of school children in their classrooms.  Into this group fall such people as Obama, Arne Duncan, Linda Darling-Hammond, Bill Ayers, the National Education Organization, and many other left-leaners.      


Politicians can come in all different colors – green, yellow, and red. Those who blindly follow are green. Those who seek fame, fortune, and/or control for themselves are yellow. Those whose aim is to change America from a capitalistic, free-market Republic into a Socialist, Communist, Marxist country are red.




The best people who could possibly stop DOI are the teachers and coaches who support Type #1 and who understand the agenda behind DOI.  If the coaches had the knowledge and the courage to stand against it because of the disruption of the UIL athletic/academic/fine arts calendar, they might be able to convince the administration to stay with Type #1 which has made China Spring/Midway/College Station, etc. good school districts. However, many of the coaches and teachers are too busy and somewhat clueless about such state-led, political efforts; and, unfortunately, they only realize the negative consequences AFTER it is too late.




Having worked with many concerned citizens all around the state to help them counter the DOI efforts, I can tell you that the administrators follow the same playbook.  They have met together at length with TASA/TASB to rehearse their presentations and their manipulative tactics. They know how to control the public meetings and have hand-picked individuals who are allowed to speak.  


So far as I know, no ISD group of concerned and well-prepared parents in Texas has been able to defeat the DOI freight train. I pray that a miracle will happen at the school districts in McLennan County that are now considering DOI (China Spring, Connally, La Vega, McGregor, Midway, Robinson, Valley Mills, Waco).  



12.31.16 – Waco Tribune-Herald


“Local school districts look for flexibility on state mandates”



Excerpts from this article:


At least seven school districts in McLennan County may soon join Waco Independent School District and opt for more local control by becoming what state law considers a District of Innovation.


A law passed during the last legislative session allows districts in good academic standing to have exemptions from state mandates similar to the exemptions charter schools have.


China Spring, Connally, La Vega, McGregor, Midway, Robinson and Valley Mills ISD school boards have spent the past two months exploring what those exemptions could mean for their schools. Those school boards could make a decision within the first couple of months of the new year to implement the exemptions during the 2017-18 academic year, superintendents said…


Mandate exemptions

Becoming a District of Innovation would give districts the chance to be exempt from mandates, including the school start date, the 90 percent attendance rule, class-size ratios, site-based decision-making processes, certain student discipline provisions, the use of planning and preparation periods and teacher appraisal requirements, according to the Texas Association of School Boards website.


To become one, a school board must pass a resolution or have a petition signed by the majority of a district advisory committee that states it is interested in exploring the option. Then, school boards have to hold public hearings and appoint a committee to map out an education program and specific exemptions.


The exemptions can also be customized for specific grade levels or campuses, the Texas Association of School Boards website states. After a district follows through the full exemption process, their plans are approved for five years.


…But not all see the potential change as a positive move forward in flexibility, and not all consider the law to be innovative.


Since the law’s passing, representatives with the Association of Texas Professional Educators have been outspoken about the possibility of Districts of Innovation being used as “a blanket waiver” to avoid following important state education rules, association spokesperson Stephanie Jacksis wrote in an email to the Tribune-Herald.


“For example, they don’t have to hire educators who have a teaching degree or are certified teachers. This creates a problem because while people who may be good at their jobs (say if they got a degree in journalism and want to teach journalism), it doesn’t necessarily mean they are good teachers,” Jacksis wrote. “They wouldn’t be trained on how to create lesson plans, work with children with behavioral problems, etc.


No license to revoke

“Also, if that teacher gets in trouble by having an inappropriate relationship with a student, there’s no revoking their teaching license to make sure they don’t jump to another district, because they never had one in the first place.”


Becoming a District of Innovation could also allow school districts to “shove more students into classrooms in an effort to save money,” Jacksis wrote.


By state law, school districts can only be exempt from the 22-to-1 student-teacher ratio by applying for a waiver through the TEA and notifying parents accordingly.


“As a DOI, they can have as many students as they want in that classroom, with an uncertified teacher, and not have to say a word to the parents about it,” Jacksis wrote…








I am so grateful to all of those who are challenging the Districts of Innovation in Texas for all the right reasons. Please continue to battle this TASB-designed takeover which is another way to force Common-Core compliant curriculum along with the social, emotional, psychological emphasis vs. fact-based emphasis on our Texas school children. The Texas High Performance Consortium was a tool to inundate our schools with digitized curriculum and data tracking. Now we see the next step in the process (Districts of Innovation) to destroy traditional education to take it over the slippery cliff.




Let me also suggest a few concerns over allowing each school district to adopt its own school year start date. Such a statewide plan would destroy the summer camping programs in which so many urban children, disabled children, church groups, athletes, and others experience opportunities that can change their lives.


The Texas economy would be harmed because of shortening the summer traveling season. Many schools would decide to start way early (or even have year-round schools) so as to have lengthy breaks throughout the school year; but the problem with that is that these breaks would occur during the bad weather months when the resort industry is in its down time with staffing.


The UIL organizes all K-12 athletic and academic programs in Texas and tries to set its activities so that they do not conflict with state-mandated testing dates and national holidays.  The UIL organizes both athletic and academic tournaments/play-offs from the local level to the state championships. With no standard calendar used across the state, local school calendars would find conflicts which would cause dysfunction for their students.


Activities that build close family relationships (e.g., family reunions, camping trips, cruises, etc.) would be hampered because every school district calendar across the state would be different with different breaks and starting dates.


Just as with so many other things in education, “Be careful for what you wish.”







I sent this to the board this morning after learning we are considering becoming a District of Innovation. There is an extensive process that will involve community input. Please pay attention to these hearings:


Last night I learned that RISD [Richardson ISD] is considering becoming a District of Innovation. I warned one of our trustees a few weeks ago to be looking out for DOI. Sure enough, it was on the agenda.

ATPE’s Monty Exter offers perspective on “Innovation Districts” in this 2 minute clip:

My questions:
1. Which portion(s) of the education code does RISD intend to exempt themselves from?

2. Why is that necessary and why is it a good idea for RISD?

3. When do you propose we start school if we become a DOI?

4. How do we compare to the districts mentioned by Mrs. Branum? Spring Branch ISD, Lewisville ISD, Mansfield ISD all have adopted DOI

5. How will DOI affect due process and T-TESS teacher evaluations?

6. Do you intend for us to allow charter schools in RISD?

7. Do you realize you are setting us up for eliminating a locally elected school board? DOI puts the power in the hands of the state. That is the opposite of local control.

HB 1842 —

Listen to this or at least at 26:00 for what to look for on agenda pushed by TASB:

“It basically provides traditional school districts the same flexibility available to open-enrollment CHARTER schools.”

DOI being pushed by TASB. The 23 schools that were part of the Texas High Performance Consortium were the guinea pigs for the DOI. Parents just didn’t know and had no voice.

Meanwhile, campuses are collecting data, including academic, social and emotional and attendance, on every student to establish a meaningful profile and figure out areas of strength and need in order to deliver personalized learning, a key component of the strategic plan.

The Anthony Independent School District is pursuing “District of Innovation” status, a classification created by Texas legislators last year to give traditional public school districts some of the freedoms CHARTER schools have.

John Shergold, a Brownsville attorney who often represents BISD employees in grievances and other matters, said the issue of real importance in the District of Innovation proposal is the potential for districts to opt out of the requirement for due process hearings in non-renewal and termination proceedings.

“If a board votes to opt out, it would fly in the face of the Texas Constitution and 70 years of established school law,” he said.

I have serious concerns about this designation. Please do your research and reject this experimental plan for RISD. Thank you for your time and consideration. Happy Summer!







Heads up Argyle ISD parents and tax payers. On the July 18th School Board meeting agenda “Districts of Innovation” is back. I want to strongly encourage people to be at this meeting on the 18th, whether you speak or not. Just having your presence there makes a difference.

One of the key issues facing our children is the collection of their private data. Districts of Innovation helps to facilitate that collection in a much greater capacity.

Here are a few other key points you may want to cover if any of you decide, as individuals, to speak on the 18th.

1. The rules and regulations governing Districts of Innovation have not been set in place. In addition, the Commissioner of Education has the ability to change those rules and regulations by following a process that many do not pay attention to, even after the rules are set in place.

2. After a district develops a DOI plan, with the intention of just taking a few of the options, like an earlier start date, if that Superintendent is replaced, another Superintendent or school board could lead us down a path of much more dangerous TEC opt outs.

3. “Although there are limitations on which laws the district can be exempt from, it could request to be exempt from virtually all teacher rights and benefits, including the state minimum salary schedule, contracts, due process, planning periods, as well as class size caps, the right to remove a disruptive student, anti-bullying laws and other teacher, student and parent protections.” – TCTA

4. The commissioner can terminate the plan for poor academic or financial performance and put the district under closer surveillance by the TEA.

5. Why does a Argyle ISD need a DOI? Are we not already a top notch district?

6. DOI clearly is a push for Competency Based Education (CBE) and Personalized Learning where our children’s private psychological data is a HUGE commodity for 3rd party vendors. In addition to the state and federal government’s public private partnerships who are working to “disrupt” traditional public schools with locally elected school boards. Their goal is to privatize education once and for all.

“There is a new state education policy concept termed either innovation zones or districts of innovation. State education agencies interested in shifting their role from enforcing compliance to one of supporting innovation and building capacity in districts are working to spur new innovative instructional models and create space for competency-based pathways in student-centered learning models. States set up an innovation zone by passing enabling legislation to set up a program and/or offering certain waivers or exemptions from administrative regulations and statutory provisions.”

End of year tests are being replaced with all-the-time data collection via online curriculum and assessments. CBE=Competency Based Education. It’s not just grades they are collecting- it is EVERYTHING a child does…. From focus, attention, grit, likes and dislikes, embedded surveys, reading speed, personality, behavior, facial expressions… All can be analyzed and profiled. It was never about test scores and grades it was about a PREDICTIVE PROFILE of human capital (aka children).

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Bryan holland

    Hello donna. I’ve been in Richardson isd all my life. Seen a lot. 11 in my family have gone through the system. There has been a Holland in risd for over 20 consecutive years. In fact, I went to school (rhs 75) with a garner. Didn’t know if you were related or not.

    I’ve also enjoyed Alice and Lynn s posts as they are intelligent even if sometimes I don’t agree with the premise or ideology.

    And I was never big on doi but not for the same reasons as you.

    The thing about the ideology that your group follows is based on let’s keep America and the education system as it is, or worse, let’s make America great again. Whereas this generation of kids is more educated than the last, status quo in a global economy is unacceptable. We must continue to move forward improving our system. That requires change. It also requires not demonizing those that disagree with you. That very demonization shows how fragile your argument is against common core and doi. (And like I said I am not for doi).

    I appreciate the need to have something to be against as it brings people together and gives purpose but it would really help to add things you are for as well. For instance you seem to be for standardized testing, I think, like Starr and taks. And I would agree with that. If I read you correctly you are against doi as it gives too much power to local representation but that means you are for centralized over site which flies in the face of your tea party roots. That is confusing.

    The anti posts that lynn, alice, and yourself post are very effective in pulling disgruntled housewives together but that only lasts so long, as our new president ele t will discover soon. Sooner or later ideas have to come together from imperfect people, working on an imperfect system helping imperfect kids. That requires bravery. That requires faith. That requires hope.

    I wish you well in this new year.

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